Appellate Court Blocks Two Sections of North Carolina's Voter ID Law

Zoey DiMauro | October 3, 2014 | 9:54am EDT
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North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (AP photo)

( The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked two sections of a contested North Carolina voter ID law. As a result, same-day voter registration and the counting of out-of-precinct ballots will be allowed during the November mid-term elections.

However, the appellate court refused to grant a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of other elements of the law, which ends pre-voter registration for 16- and 17- year-olds and shortens the number of early voting days by a week, until those matters can be settled in court.

“The right to vote is fundamental … and a tight timeframe before an election does not diminish that right,” Circuit Court Judge James Wynn wrote in his opinion issued October 1, which reversed a lower court ruling upholding the law less than five weeks before the general election.

“The district court got the law plainly wrong in several crucial respects,” Wynn added.

“By inspecting the different parts of House Bill 589 as if  they existed in a vacuum, the district court failed to consider the sum of those parts and their cumulative effect on minority access to the ballot box.”

Furthermore, he wrote, “the district court failed to adequately consider North Carolina’s history of voting discrimination… and failed to recognize, much less address, the problem of sacrificing voter enfranchisement at the altar of bureaucratic [in]efficiency and (under-) resourcing.”

However, in her dissent, Circuit Judge Diana Gribbon Motz stated that she “cannot conclude” that the appellants “established that the balance of hardships and public interest weigh in their favor.”

"I am pleased that the major parts of this popular and common sense bill were left intact and apply to the upcoming election,” said Governor Pat McCrory in a press release. “I have instructed our attorneys to appeal to the Supreme Court so that the two provisions rejected today can apply in the future and protect the integrity of our elections."

"Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID and we should expect nothing less for the protection of our right to vote," McCrory said in 2013 when he signed the bill.

But several groups, including the League of Women Voters of North Carolina (LWVNC), filed a lawsuit challenging the law, claiming that it discriminates against poor and minority voters who rely on provisions like early voting days to be able to get to the polls.

“We call House Bill 589 the monster bill,” Mary Klenz of the LWVNC told in an email. “This makes voting less accessible (not more) for voters for no valid reason. Claims of voter fraud are not substantiated.”

Another lawsuit has been filed against the voter ID section of the law, which requires that voters present a valid driver’s license, U.S. passport, military ID or tribal identification card before voting. However it will not go into effect until the start of 2016, and the case against it will be heard in state courts.

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an Indiana law requiring voter photo identification was constitutional, saying that “there is no question about the legitimacy or importance of a State’s interest in counting only eligible voters’ votes,” and that passing stricter laws gives voters greater confidence in the system, encouraging “citizen participation in the democratic process.”

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